The multi-agency law enforcement action on Navajo Nation lands last week led to 30 tons of evidence and the eradication of about 260,000 live plants, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Mexico announced on Monday. The investigation – “Operation Navajo Gold” – focused on a supposed hemp operation owned by Dineh Benally in the Shiprock area of the Navajo Nation that Tribal authorities said was a front for illicit cannabis production.
The team, comprised of federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies, also found about 1,000 pounds of “high-grade marijuana” ready for distribution, James Langenberg, special agent in charge of the Albuquerque, New Mexico Federal Bureau of Investigation Division, said.
Navajo Police Chief Philip Francisco, said the raid brings a “much-needed resolution to the marijuana operations and has given the Navajo Nation citizens, as well as the surrounding communities, peace of mind.”
Last month, the Navajo Nation Council passed a resolution outlawing hemp and hemp production as part of its efforts to shut down Benally’s operation. The Nation also sued 33 farmers who leased the land to Benally for his operations, contending that the farmers “possess or control Navajo lands that are being used to illegally grow, produce, manufacture, transport, or sell industrial hemp and/or marijuana” and the actions are “irreparably injuring and contaminating the Nation’s lands, waters, and other natural resources.”
The operation last week included more than a dozen law enforcement agencies as the tribe’s land includes parts of Utah, New Mexico, and Arizona. The Attorney’s Office did not indicate that any arrests were made in the raid.
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